The FJ-1 Fury

Late in 1944, the US Navy sent requests out to industry for carrier-based jet fighters, having earlier contracted with McDonnell for the twin-engined XFD-1 Phantom. The response to that second request resulted in three further designs being chosen for limited production: the Vought XF6U-1 Pirate, the McDonnell XF2D-1 Banshee, and the North American NA-134. It was hoped that these fighters would be available in time for the invasion of Japan, intended for May 1946. As detailed in Chapter 1, NAA's NA-134 design soon developed into the swept-wing XP-86 for the Air Force, but the Navy stood by the straight-winged proposal. Constrained by the need for good low-speed handling qualities, the naval design began to diverge markedly from the XP-86, even before the latter adopted a swept wing. The Navy ordered three prototypes of a revised NA-135 on 1st January 1945, and when the mock-up was unveiled during March 1945, it featured a large removable panel in the upper fuselage to aid in removal of the J35 engine. By comparison, the XP-86 mock-up instead featured a rear fuselage which could be detached in its entirety for this purpose. It is worth also noting that the NA-135 did not feature any capability for wing folding. As a result of the wing-mounted dive brake panels, which when designed into the aircraft made wing folding difficult to accommodate, NAA had come up with a novel kneeling nose undercarriage. This enabled a small swivelling jockey wheel to be fitted to the nose, allowing the aircraft to be closely stacked, tail-high aboard carriers. The three NA-135 aircraft were designated XFJ-1 by the US Navy.

Though the first XFJ-1 was completed in January 1946, the engine was not ready until June of that year and taxi tests did not begin until late July. The aircraft finally flew on 11th September with Wallace Lien as pilot. The second and third aircraft flew in October 1946 and February 1947 respectively, and following completion of manufacturer's testing, were all handed over to the Navy in September 1947. It is interesting to note that the NAA constructor's numbers for these XFJ-1s immediately preceded those of the XP-86 prototypes.

In May 1945, the Navy had ordered one hundred production FJ-1s under Contract Noa(s)6911, although in reality only thirty FJ-1s rolled off the production lines at Inglewood. Known by NAA as the NA-141, the first FJ-1 was delivered straight to the Naval Test Center at Patuxent River in Maryland on 5th October 1947. Along with six other NATC machines, this aircraft began the service testing of the type, though with just thirty aircraft, large-scale squadron assignment was never on the cards. The last of the FJ-1s was delivered on 30th April 1948, just one month before the first P-86A Sabre was delivered to the Air Force. The production version differed little from the XFJ, the main difference being the deletion of the wing-mounted dive brakes, in favour of more conventional fuselage-mounted panels. It is interesting to note that the FJ-1 retained the tailfin-mounted pitot probe. This location was also initially chosen for the P-86.

The only US Navy squadron to receive the FJ-1 was VF-5A, based at NAS North Island near San Diego. Commanded by Cdr. Evan 'Pete' Aurand, the squadron received its first FJ-1 on 15th November 1947 and VF-5A eventually operated twenty-four of the type. Alongside VF-17, which flew the FH-1 Phantom, VF-5A was tasked with proving the suitability of jet operations at sea, and the unit began an exhaustive familiarisation program which took in many landings aboard a simulated aircraft carrier deck painted on the runway at North Island. Pete Aurand had the distinction of carrying out the first carrier landing of an FJ-1, when on 16th March 1948 he brought his aircraft aboard the USS Boxer, CV-21. The squadron executive officer, Lt. Cdr. Robert Elder followed him. Aurand then just managed to take off from the Boxer without catapult assistance, but the poor engine acceleration proved too much of a risk, and thereafter catapult assistance was considered obligatory for FJ-1 carrier operations. It is not known when the name 'Fury' was assigned to the FJ-1, but by early 1948 the name was in regular use.

However, the aircraft did not really demonstrate much suitability to carrier landings, the undercarriage in particular being a weak spot. In August 1948, VF-5A was redesignated VF-51 and was ordered to deploy up to eight FJ-1s aboard USS Princeton, CV-37. Four aircraft were loaded aboard at San Diego and the remaining machines were to arrive whilst the carrier was at sea. Which was fine in principle, but the pilot of one FJ-1, Bu No. 120371 the last aircraft built, landed hard, broke the whole left wing off and went over the side. Luckily he was rescued, but the cruise did not proceed well, with further landing accidents occurring. Ignominiously, Aurand was ordered to take his aircraft back off the ship within two days.

However, all was not doom and gloom for VF-51. In September 1948 the unit entered seven FJ-1s in the Bendix Trophy Race for jets. Flying from Long Beach, California to Cleveland in Ohio, VF-51 aircraft took the first four places, ahead of two California ANG F-80s. First past the post was Ensign F.E. Brown, in 4 hours 10 minutes, 44.4 seconds, followed two and a half minutes later by Cdr. Aurand. Much was made of the fact that the Navy aircraft had carried all operational equipment, including ammunition.

At least one further carrier operation was accomplished by VF-51; during February 1949, again aboard USS Boxer. However, in May of 1949 the FJ-1s were phased out in favour of the new F9F-3 Panther. Surplus FJ-1s were then overhauled at Alameda before being allotted to Naval Air Reserve units, beginning with NAR Oakland in early March 1950, though the unit only received seven aircraft. NAR Los Alamitos then received a trickle of aircraft, eventually being assigned ten Furys, and further units at Dallas and Olathe then took up other machines. NAR Dallas was only assigned three FJ-1s, operating them from 14th June to 4th October 1951. Tail codes for the NAR aircraft was as follows: 'F' for Oakland, 'L' for Los Alamitos, 'D' for Dallas and 'K' for Olathe. VF-5A/VF-51 FJ-1s wore the code 'S'. NAR Olathe retired the last of the type in June and July 1953.

(missing photo)
Prototype XFJ-1 Fury Bu 39053 on roll-out at Inglewood. The
three prototypes differed from the production aircraft
in a number of ways; most noticeable was the lack of
wing-root extensions and the short jet pipe 'pen nib'

The second XFJ-1 Fury Bu 39054 differed in a number of
details from the number 1 aircraft. In this view,
the lack of engine cooling ducts and the slightly
different nose leg are visible.

Bu No. 39053, the first XFJ-1 Fury in flight over
California during late 1946. Fin-mounted pitot probe
location was also chosen for the XP-86 Sabre.

Assigned to Naval Air Test Center Patuxent River,
Maryland, Bu No. 120347 was used in electronic tests.
It was stricken on 5 January 1954.

Naval Air Reserve Olathe FJ-1. Reserve Furys
wore an orange stripe around the rear fuselage.
Olathe flew FJ-1s until July 1953.

(missing photo)
With a production run of just thirty aircraft,
it's surprising that a pair of FJ-1s survive.
The machine depicted here, Bu. No. 120349, was
formerly displayed in Connecticutt, but has since
been moved to Chino in California for restoration.
The second machine, Bu. No. 120351, is restored and
show at the Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola, FL.(below)

(missing photo)
Just too good a shot to miss. FJ-1 b/u 120349 (now at Chino) seen dismantled at Bradley, CT in 1983. (R M Porter)

Specifications - FJ-1:
Empty: 8,843-lb. (4010 kg)
Take-off with two 170-gallon wing tip tanks: 15,115-lb. (6854 kg)

Wingspan: 38 feet 2 inches (11.63 m)
Length: 34 feet 5 inches (10.48 m)
Height: 14 feet 10 inches (4.52 m)
Wing area: 221 square feet. (20.5m²)

Performance: (Allison J35-A-2 of 4000 lb. thrust.)
Maximum speed: 547 mph at 9,000 feet. (880 km/h at 2743 m)
Stalling speed: 121 mph. (194 km/h)
Initial rate of climb: 3,300 feet per minute. (1005 m/min)
Service ceiling: 32,000 feet.(9753 m)

Fuel capacity:
Internal: 465 gallons. (1743 litres)
Total: 805 gallons. (3018 litres)

Range: 1,496 miles (with external tanks). (2407 km)

Armament: Six .50-calibre machine guns with 1,500 rounds total.

XFJ-1 and FJ-1 Production:
Bureau Nos.
Bu. 39053 to 39055 (three a/c)


Construction No.
55996 to 55998

Bureau Nos.
Bu. 120342 to 120371 (thirty a/c)


Construction No.
38394 to 38423




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